In Philippa Gregory’s historical novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, the immature Mary Boleyn frequently pauses to inventory the goods she’s gained through her affair with the king. “I had a pair of matched diamonds for my ears, I had three new gowns, one of cloth of gold.”
By contrast, I have around four dozen T-shirts.
I’m not bragging. I don’t wear them to impress. I rarely wear them at all.
I hoard them.
It’s not about their utility, but about what they represent.
There’s the South Carolina Book Festival, where I first encountered the Inkplots, a group of Columbia-based writers from whom I continue to learn. The Double Bridge Run from downtown Pensacola to Pensacola Beach, my longest road race ever. The Smart Matters Scholarship tennis tournament, a Junior League of Columbia school readiness program. Charleston Farmers Market, a Saturday morning event I reintroduced to the city when I worked there in Downtown Revitalization. Summer Slam, a Pensacola tennis tournament for anyone willing to play in the middle of July. Gulf Shores’ National Shrimp Festival and Pensacola’s Fiesta Forces, both of which offered me the opportunity to work in a beer booth for one free beer at the end of a two-hour shift. And more than one from various Habitat for Humanity homebuilding events.
Tucked in the bottom of the drawer, there’s one Greek-letter sorority jersey from high school, and one from college.
And there’s an absent shirt. For twenty-five years, I treasured a plain white T-shirt with kelly-green-banded neck and sleeves. Emblazoned on the breast: a Maltese cross and Camp Winnataska. When my daughter got old enough to go to camp, I let my authentic retro T go with her.
One day, I might copy what a sorority sister’s mom did. She scissored out all the screen-printed art from her daughter’s collected T-shirts and made a quilt from them for her dorm room.
She understood that woven into all that cotton knit are stories of achievement, membership, experience, and lasting bonds.
But quilting is a time-consuming art that requires practice. So unless I quit writing to ply a needle, it’s more likely that I’ll stitch my memories together with words.